This gorgeous piece of work, has been by far, my favorite baking challenges. I learnt a LOT! I loved everything about it, even it's name - Croquembouche - which means 'crunch in mouth'.
There are three components to this - the pate a choux, the crème patissiere, and the chocolate glaze used to mount it and decorate it. Traditionally in bakeries and for actual wedding cakes, the bakers used an aluminum cone which could aid in building height and structure. Since I didn't have any cones lying about, I just made a free hand, somewhat conical shape. Well instead of a mountain, just imagine it was a volcano whose top blew up :) Coming from the Northwestern United States, imagine it being Mount St. Helens instead of Mount Hood :)
The first component is also the basis for making eclairs and other French pastries. The pate a choux was quite easy to make and I'm certainly going to use this recipe again.
Pate a choux
- ¾ cup (175 ml.) water
- 6 tbsp. (85 g.) unsalted butter
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 1 tbsp. sugar
- 1 cup (125 g.) all-purpose flour
- 4 large eggs
- For Egg Wash: 1 egg and pinch of salt
- Pre-heat oven to 425◦F/220◦C degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally.
- At boil, remove from heat and sift in the flour, stirring to combine completely.
- Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.
- Transfer to a bowl and stir with a spoon 1 minute to cool slightly.
- Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny.
- As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking. Add the next egg. Repeat till you finish all four eggs.
- Transfer batter to a pastry bag or a ziploc (cut off slightly large tip).
- Pipe choux about 1 inch-part in the baking sheets. (I would suggest making some large ones and some small ones. The large ones are nice to use as the base of the structure).
- Using a clean finger dipped in hot water, gently press down on any tips that have formed on the top of choux when piping. You want them to retain their ball shape, but be smoothly curved on top.
- Egg wash (1 whole egg with a pinch of salt) the entire batch.
- Bake at 425F for 10 minutes till it gets slightly golden on top and become puffy.
- Reduce to 350F and continue baking for another 20 minutes. It should get some darker color.
- Store in an airtight container overnight in the fridge and use when ready.
- 1 cup (225 ml.) whole milk
- 2 Tbsp. cornstarch
- 6 Tbsp. (100 g.) sugar
- 1 large egg
- 2 large egg yolks
- 2 Tbsp. (30 g.) unsalted butter
- 1 Tsp. Vanilla
- Dissolve cornstarch in ¼ cup of milk. Beat into the mixture, the whole egg and egg yolks. Using a silicone egg beater really makes this easier. Please check here to see a daily special at Foodbuzz
- At medium heat, pour the remaining 3/4 cup of milk in a saucepan along with the sugar and bring to boil.
- Remove from heat and pour 1/3 of boiling milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that the eggs do not begin to cook.
- Continue boiling the rest of the milk. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking.
- Continue whisking constantly until the cream thickens. During this point, add the butter and vanilla.
- After it thickens and starts boiling, remove from heat and its done!
2 tsps of instant espresso
1 1/2 tsps of boiling water.
Mix it up and add at step 6, along with the vanilla and butter.
- Melt about 8 oz to 12 oz of the finest chocolate. Melt to a slightly thick consistency (a bit thicker than the pastry creme). This will help in building the bases and mounting each choux to the bottom ones.
- After the mounting and layering. Melt the chocolate a little more till you are able to take a fork and drip in a thick stream. Use this to further glaze the tower.
- Take a plain/star tip and fill a pastry bag with the vanilla or coffee creme.
- Using the tip, poke a hole in the side or bottom of each choux and fill with the creme. You will feel the choux becoming a bit heavier.
To assemble the croquembouche, take a clean presentation plate. Place the big choux pieces in the bottom for starters and decide what diameter you would like to choose. Accordingly take duct tape/clear tape and cover the rest of the plate (beyond the choux circle). This helps in clean up when you start dripping the chocolate all over the tower.
- After the tape is in place. Dip the full choux pieces in melted chocolate and place each one on the plate forming the same circle. Start placing each one slowly and cover the sides and the bottoms relatively well. This will ensure that the choux pieces stick to the sides of each one, making it a stronger structure.
- After you finish the tower. Glaze further with the chocolate (instructions above).